Christians on the Left: The Importance of the Social Gospel in the Canadian Social Democratic Tradition

Ives, Andrew
Date Written:  2011-04-01
Publisher:  Revue LISA
Year Published:  2011
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22842

This article looks at the history of the Canadian social democratic movement and highlights the preponderant role played by leftist Christians. Finding their inspiration in a social interpretation of Christ's message, these Christians became heavily involved in the process of creating a new political party, clearly to the left of the political spectrum, and helped shape its discourse.



The history of the social democratic movement in Canada is a case in point and reveals the importance of the Social Gospel on the political thought and the political discourse of the Canadian left. Christians on the left of the political spectrum were the driving force behind the creation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the first viable social democratic party in Canada. In its early years, the theme of Christian brotherhood was front and centre in the party's political discourse. The Social Gospel tradition has also had a major influence on Canadian political culture generally, allowing a Canadian social democratic party to become electorally viable and develop into a well-established element of the contemporary political landscape.

The importance of the Social Gospel in the creation and continued viability of a Canadian social democratic party clearly reveal that Christianity as a political influence is not necessarily an ally of the New Right. However, in contemporary Canada, as elsewhere, the Social Gospel influence is on the wane. Recent demographic studies reveal a nation that has been moving away from the more liberal mainline Protestant churches, thereby making it more difficult for the collectivist Christian tradition to provide a counter-balance to rising individualism in the country's political culture.Two trends are at work: rising levels of secularisation and a conservative Evangelical wave coming up from the South. The former seems to represent the most serious threat to the political influence of the Social Gospel tradition.

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